Monday, March 29, 2021

Review: Episode 2 of Landscape Artist of the Year Canada (2020)

Episode 2 of Landscape Artist of the Year Canada was marginally better than Episode 1. That's not saying a lot. (see Review: Episode 1 of Landscape Artist of the Year Canada (2020)

Episode 2 of Landscape Artist of the Year Canada (2020)


This was filmed in Autumn 2019 and originally aired in 2020 in Canada. It's now being broadcast via Sky Arts (Freeview) in the UK.

Location of the pods: HEAT 2 - Cobourg Marina


I was tut-tutting again about the location of the pods. All I can say is that the location manager for this programme must have a very suburban outlook when it comes to landscapes

The pods in front of Cobourg Marina


The primary criteria for locations seems to be "flat ground" - with more "flat ground" nearby for the wildcards and then even more "flat ground" for the rest of the set-up re the production team. 

Not quite sure where the quality of the landscape and the view gets a look in!

The secondary criteria seems to be somewhere where they don't have to carry the pods too far! 
The pods were located next to Cobourg Marina
"This is technically a seascape" (Mark Meyer)
...except it wasn't since it was a lake not a sea!  Its water is derived from several rivers which all drain into the lake - and there are no tidal flows.

This location offered:
  • very little land in view
  • just pontoons and boats, Lake Ontario and the sky. 
  • the trees were either side of them and in the far distance. So all those who like to paint trees were out of luck!
.....and yet just around the corner was a nice little bay with a sandy beach and some rather nice looking trees - and even better - reflections and shadows!! (see top left in the above photo)

Maybe this is a case of commercial television programme-making as an advert for recreational facilities?  Permission to film dependent on those providing permission telling you where they'd like you to go?

The weather


We had the first heat with interesting weather causing complications for the artists. The morning was clearly a typical maritime low key monochrome morning with a grey sky and low cloud. To be followed around lunchtime by sweltering hot weather and a brilliant blue sky and some very interesting high clouds.

I felt for all those who were not kitted out suitably for painting plein air in changing weather.....
Especially that wild card painting in the sun with a bald head and no hat.

The Artists in Episode 2

(Left to right) Colin, Ian, Beckett, Andrew, Deborah and Anna 

Professional Artists


Four of the five artists came from Ontario - continuing the trend started last week. Maybe those who made this programme didn't provide a very big production budget for reimbursing the travel expenses of artists living in other parts of Canada. 

The standard seems to be one artist NOT from Ontario per heat! 

If I was an artist living in Canada - somewhere other than Ontario - and I had applied for this art competition on television, I think I'd be studying the law and regulations around competitions and entries and how they are treated - and maybe writing a letter to those who regulate such things.....  After all if it says "artists from all over Canada", surely there ought to be a better mix than we've seen so far!

Five professional artists took part - a listed below. There were four painters and a book artist and I'll list them in that order
  • Andrew Cheddie Sookrah (Facebook | Instagram | Twitter) - Born in Guyana in 1956, he emigrated to Canada in 1974 and became a citizen in 1978. He is now a professional artist - painter and sculptor - and fine art teacher based in Toronto, ON. He's a an elected member of the Canadian Society of Painters in Watercolour, the Society of Canadian Artists, the Ontario Society of Artists, and the Portrait Society of Canada. He's also an instructor at the McMichael Collection where the finalists's artwork will be on exhibition - where he has been offering an Online Art Studio during the Pandemic


Anna Kutishcheva (Facebook | Instagram) Born in the Ukraine,  Anna graduated from Moscow University with a BA in Folk Art, then graduated in Advanced Illustration from Sheridan College and was elected a Member of Society of Canadian Artists (SCA) in 2009. Based in Oakville, ON she works as a works as a free-lance illustrator and fine artist. She paints in acrylic - but her paintings often take several hours.

Colin Davis (Instagram) He is a Toronto-based painter and DGC Graphic Designer. He graduated from the BAA Illustration program at Sheridan College in 2012. Based in North Bay, ON. Very oddly, his website indicates very clearly that he is NOT a landscape painter (he paints nudes, portraits and still life). This was his submission. A man of few words who knows how to focus.

Ian McLean (Facebook Instagram | Twitter) Based in Bright’s Grove, ON. 1989 - B.A. (Fine Art) - University of Guelph 1990 plus B.Ed. from Western University, London. He has no experience of painting plein air.

Deborah Danelley (Facebook | Instagram) The only artist NOT from Ontario. She's based in Winnipeg in Manitoba. She graduated in 1997 from the School of Art, University of Manitoba - and received a Gold Medal!  Her collages made from old books very much remind me of the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright.
Deborah Danelley is best known more recently, for her experimentation with repurposing common, found objects and materials like old books, used tea bags, scrap metal and wood, and transforming them into intriguing unconventional collage works.

Amateur Artist


Beckett Pura (Twitter | Instagram private) Based in York, ON. He describes himself as a tech gut and is Head of Content for a dropship company. Beckett isn't really marketing his work as he has not website or Facebook Page and his Instagram is private

Wildcard Artists


The Wildcards

There seemed to be rather more wildcard artists at this location. I guess it was the prospect of all that flat land!

I'm beginning to think that the Wildcard Artists get the best deal as they can set up wherever they like - within a general area - and then look in whichever direction they fancy.  Note the locations and perspectives of those who set-up below.

The Wildcards' Set-Ups - on location in the green bit just beyond the pods.


What I liked about this episode


There is a BIG DIFFERENCE compared to the UK series. I was watching this episode when I realised I couldn't see a single bit of technology. No painting from iPads of smart phones.  Well not amongst the pod artists at least. So unless there was some smart camera work which hid it, these artists are quite literally painting what they can see - and observe. I couldn't tell whether the same was true of the Wildcards - but technology was definitely not obvious.

The artists in this heat all spoke, for the most part, with less angst (compared to Episode 1) and more content about their own personal process for making art. I think this is where programmes like this can score highly - demonstrating that even though you are in theory all painting the same view, you bring to it your own personal perspectives and preferences and processes - and hence it's unlikely that all art will look the same. That said......

The artists in this heat produced an incredibly diverse range of artworks considering they were all in front of the same view.  

There again, given the view, I think there was a very considerable degree of imaginative input from each of the artists who tried to find ways to make something of what started out as an image with little obvious appeal and a very decidedly monochromatic colour palette - on the grey spectrum!

The continuing "interesting" relationship between the Judges continues to be a riveting distraction.  This episode, things had clearly moved on - judging by some of the remarks.  This one seemed to be a major understatement....
Mark and I don't always agree (Joanne Tod)
However I liked the way that Joanne Tod now seemed to be standing her ground with respect to her preferences. As she indicated they now try to build a consensus and pick art they both like.

I'm also still liking the part of each programme where Ian Dejardin, the Executive Director of the McMichael Canadian Art Collection, does a review of how Candian artists have painted in the past - in this case in relation to water. This episode we saw paintings from:

What I did NOT like about this episode


Yet again we have:
  • Artists who are not landscape painters (a still life with a hint of mountain and sky in the background does NOT qualify as a landscape painting in my book - even if he (Colin) is a good painter!)
  • Artists who have NEVER EVER PAINTED PLEIN AIR before. What is the point? You need people with experience to get the most out of a location and also avoid the problems when the morning monochrome greyness turns into 90 degrees and blue skies with interesting clouds. That's not to say that artists new to the context cannot produce good artwork. It's just that if you're selecting people with experience you're more likely to get good art.
None of the paintings looked in the least but like the location.

For me the test of a good landscape artist is whether they can give you a good sense of the location even if they have not worked in a wholly realistic way. I'm afraid I can't cope with this North American thing of amping up the colour to totally unrealistic,  eye blistering colours. It may serve to get artwork noticed but it's very hard on the eyes on a day to day basis.  

Interestingly the only artist who did that for me was Deborah, the book artist whose collage work using books she has broken up gave the best impression of the place.

Heat Winners

LAOTYC Episode 2 Artists with their artwork
 
The artists had to deal with:
  • a challenging subject
  • major changes in the weather
  • the fact that some had never painted landscapes and/or outside before.
This is my take on the landscape artwork produced in four hours at Cobourg Marina.

Mark Meyer seemed to make it clear he expected to see boats. Overall - it's interesting how few boats were included in the paintings/artwork!
  • Andrew was very obviously a very skilled painter who used acrylics in an extremely colourful way. He chose an interesting and effective composition, took some very big risks and produced a very large painting - with some ease. It was fascinating to watch how he took the painting through various stages - and layers, colours and brushes to achieve the end result
  • Anna produced a painting which I think was less good than she was capable of. It was also off kilter in the sense that she hadn't thought through her placement of boats at the outset and the water seemed to be tilting (a not uncommon problem experienced by many artists when painting water for the first time)
  • Colin was clearly a skilled painter with a thoughtful approach. Considering he had no experience of either landscapes or working plein air I thought he did really well. Indeed I thought Colin's painting was going to be a painterly example of how muted colours can be very beautiful indeed - when it diverged from its early promise. One of those paintings where the artists needed to stop sooner.
  • Ian's painting looked as if it was located in Bermuda. It just didn't say Canada to me.  There again, there was very little about the subject which said Canada. That said it turned out better than I thought it might - but the colour choices were still too garish for me.
  • Deborah managed to produce an artwork which beat all the paintings in terms of giving a clear sense of place on that day. She also had a good eye, a great sense of composition and insight into how to build am artwork from scraps of books.
  • Beckett introduced features not present in the view into his painting. He also painted in some interesting colours - no doubt influenced by his colour blindness on the red/green spectrum. I wasn't a fan - and neither was Joanne of his shortcut route to creating foliage. 

The Judges were less than articulate about which paintings they preferred. However I did think this one sentence summed up what they were looking for
"It's all about who was able to o something interesting and good today"



The Heat winners - going forward to the Final were 
  • Andrew Cheddie Sookrah. I was clear that he was clear that he knew he would be in the Final.
  • Deborah Danelley - was incredibly surprised to be selected for the Final. But she's a class act in my opinion.
Episode 3 is 8pm on Wednesday on Sky Arts | Freeview.

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